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Mansion House, Kawau Island: Restoration

Mansion House, on Kawau Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, started life as the home of the manager of the copper mine once active on the island. Substantially altered, it then became the island home of its most famous owner, Sir George Grey. Later, passing through various phases as a boarding house and then a hotel, it gradually became run-down, altered, extended, renovated and inappropriately restored. Since 1967 it has been Crown-owned and administered by the Department of Conservation (DoC) as a popular house museum destination.

In the early 1990s Salmond Reed prepared a Conservation Plan for Mansion House on behalf of DoC and recently, based on more sophisticated conservation practice, supported by the emergence of improved technologies, DoC has commenced the gradual process of bringing to structural standard and historical accuracy, a remainder of un-completed and necessary works under the Mansion House Management plan.

The recent remedial work, specified and managed for DoC by Salmond Reed, aims to restore the house with materials authentic to its original era, at the same time ensuring that the building is rendered watertight to prevent ongoing damage and preserve it into the future.


Early photographs, documentation and historic paint sampling methods were all used to determine the final outcome of the complex project which involved many specialist trades. The works included rebuilding part of the roof-framing of the earlier Mine Manager’s Wing to restore its original form and to comply with current seismic and wind loading standards. Chimneys on the west wing were also rebuilt to more faithfully represent their original form, while fibre cement tiles installed in the 1980s were replaced with natural slates laid in the chevron pattern shown in early photographs. Lead-work and internal valleys were replaced and at the same time the whole building was cleaned and redecorated. The main elevations were stripped of modern paints and then coated with traditional lime wash, using colours more appropriate and faithful to the original era. This finish will also assist in keeping the masonry walls dry.

In conjunction with the DoC-funded works, the Mansion House Foundation funded the repairs and re-presentation of the former Gun Room, thus adding to the overall experience for museum visitors and now, as part of the plan to establish high priority recommendations that can be economically achieved, additional work is under way to gradually repair and re-present other rooms in need of redecoration.

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